Facilities management partners of commercial air conditioning users (offices and warehouses to shopping centres and airports) need to be aware of the perfect storm brewing in the industry, according to specialist hire company Andrews Sykes. The company is warning that significant under-investment in maintenance over recent years, combined with the introduction of a new British Standard and the looming R22 deadline, mean the sector could experience a capacity crunch over the next 18 months, and few businesses will have contingency plans in place.
Whilst malfunctioning or broken air conditioning units simply create an uncomfortable indoor environment and reduce productivity, non-compliance with the British Standard 15780 (introduced in 2011) and the R22 issue both have more serious potential consequences: failure to comply could be argued as negligence and have legal as well as financial ramifications.
Steve Reeve, director at Andrews Sykes, said: “Many organisations will not realise that it is the end user or landlord who is the liable party in terms of responsibility for plant and equipment - not the contractor, the facilities manager, or other supplier. Depending on the specific details of the lease, the end user or landlord has a legal duty to ensure all air conditioning equipment is free from refrigerants such as R22, and that cleanliness and dust accumulation is kept within acceptable levels.”
Andrews Sykes advises any organisation that uses or manages air conditioning should take steps to ensure compliance now. Reeve continued: “The collective impact of under-investment, BS 15780 and R22 means many businesses may struggle to meet their obligations in providing a supply of clean, fresh air at a reasonable temperature to their employees and customers. We anticipate the air conditioning system in some organisations will be out of use unexpectedly, due to lack of maintenance, and at the peak of summer. This may be the tipping point as clients seek out decent, reliable contractors who, while 'the bonnet is up' can cover off R22 replacement, and deep cleaning to BS15780 compliance. Any organisation that relies on climate control equipment should implement a plan sooner rather than later, to include the hire of some form of temporary solution, to ensure there's no disruption when the inevitable happens.”